Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu flew to Baghdad on Aug. 20 for an official visit that was meant to calm growing tensions spurred by what Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki charges are his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s overtly interventionist and pro-Sunni policies. But if his true aim — as some critics claim — was to embarrass Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), it was Kilicdaroglu who came away with egg on his face.
Flanked by an army of businessmen and journalists, Kilicdaroglu had set himself an ambitious itinerary. After Baghdad, he was due to travel to Kirkuk, Karbala and Najaf, where the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani had agreed after much cajoling to grant the CHP leader an audience. Instead, after meetings with Maliki, parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and assorted Turkmen leaders, Kilicdaroglu abruptly announced that he was heading home.